A fire ripped through an oilfield equipment fabrication business in north Red Deer Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of about 80 nearby Oriole Park homes.
About 30 workers at Red Deer Ironworks Inc. got out of the building safely on Golden West Avenue, just south of 67th Street. They and co-workers in nearby buildings gathered to watch the spectacle.
Good afternoon everyone. We have had a fire today at our facility in Red Deer, Alberta but everyone got out ok and the EMS crews are are working on putting it out and are doing a great job. Thank you for all your texts and calls we appreciate them all.
— Red Deer Ironworks (@RDIronworks) April 17, 2019
Deputy fire chief Tyler Pelke said the call came in at about 10:40 a.m. and the stubborn blaze was brought under control in the afternoon.
Firefighters arrived and initially tried to get inside the building to tackle the fire.
“Crews were pushed back by the amount of heat and smoke,” said Pelke. “So, it became a defensive fire at that point.”
Firefighters expected to remain on the scene into the evening. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
In an email, RDI president Ed Delaronde reiterated that all staff were safe and the company will carry on.
“We will continue to do business in Red Deer as the main building was not affected by fire. We will quickly rebuild and service our customers,” says Delaronde.
“We have outstanding committed staff I’m extremely proud of.”
Dozens of spectators stood and watched as thick, black smoke billowed out of the large industrial building, which was destroyed.
Scott Reeves, who said he was delivering in the area, said when he arrived, he could see ”just plumes of black smoke.
“People were trying to evacuate people out of the business. There were people moving through the smoke and coughing because of the smoke and chemicals.”
Gusting winds were blowing smoke, embers and other debris toward nearby homes, said Reeves.
“It looked like sheet metal was blown into lanes and on top of houses.”
Harold Gavin was visiting his brother in a business across the road when they were alerted to all of the commotion outside.
“All I saw was nothing but black smoke. (The flames) were pretty high,” he said, estimating they shot up about five metres above the large industrial building.
“It was popping and banging.”
Gavin credited the fast fire department response with containing the damage to one building.
“If it weren’t for the firefighters and their response time, there would be a lot more damage here. It could’ve been worse if it weren’t for them.”
The wind blew the smoke toward Oriole Park and all residents on O’Brien Crescent and O’Neil Close were evacuated because of air quality concerns.
Residents were advised to stay indoors, close windows and doors and turn off any air intakes into the home, such as air conditioning units.
The city lifted its air quality warning at about 3 p.m., although residents were advised the smoke might last overnight.
This story was updated on April 18 with comments from RDI president Ed Delaronde.